The Australian Labor Party has said it plans to block a public vote on same-sex marriage, urging a parliamentary vote instead.
The support of the main party of the opposition is needed by the Liberal National Coalition Government in order to hold the plebiscite – scheduled for February 11.
Labor leader Bill Shorten told reporters that in a meeting of the parliamentary party, it was unanimously agreed to withhold support for the vote.
Although the legislation has already passed the House of Representatives, where the Government has a majority, it must still pass the Senate where opposition parties hold the upper hand.
Although Labor supports equal marriage, Mr Shorten said his party wouldn’t support legislation that could lead to a divisive public debate inevitably causing discrimination.
“The experts have unequivocally explained to Labor that the plebiscite would cause harm to gay and lesbian people particularly but not exclusively young people,” he said.
“Marriage equality, let’s make it a reality, let’s just get on with it.”
The Government has also issued new draft amendments to the current federal marriage law that will be put to parliament if a majority of people vote in favour of the change.
The Australian Christian Lobby, which opposes same-sex marriage, has said the vote must be held to allow “ordinary Australians” a say in the “biggest social policy change in a generation.”
Opinion polls have shown the majority of Australians support the introduction of same-sex marriage. The same polls have also shown people are running out of patience with the Government’s stalling on the issue.
Recently, a Government Senator suggested people who “cured” themselves of homosexuality should be publicly celebrated.
Pop legend Kylie Minogue announced last week that she doesn’t plan on marrying until marriage equality is a reality Down Under.